My husband told me afterwards he'd been planning to propose for months. He didn’t know how, where or when until we’d booked a table at the 360 Restaurant for dinner in the CN Tower, Toronto
Canada’s largest city, Toronto, is on the banks of Lake Ontario with lots to see and do – all mostly within walking distance.
We started our city break at the CN Tower (416-868-6937) where daytime entry is CAD$30. We visited the revolving 360 Restaurant (416-362-5411) at the top of the tower for dinner. CAD$55 got us tower entry and a three course set menu each. As dessert arrived hubby-to-be went quiet, and then, he proposed. I have to admit the stylish meal and venue became a bit of a blur after this heart-stopping question.
Was he on bended knee – no.
Did he have a ring - no.
Did the restaurant stop revolving – yes I honestly think it did, for a moment!
Of course I accepted, but barely remember the 147-storey elevator ride down, or passing the ice rink of skaters five minutes from the CN Tower at the Harbourfront Centre (open in winter and free to skate, 416 203-3000).
Shopping - buying the ring
A proposal meant I was in need of an engagement ring. So I began a shopping trip to rival any girls dream.
Shopping in Toronto involves a brilliant PATH system of underground walkway tunnels linking 27km of stores and restaurants, office towers, five subway stations, Union Station, hotels and entertainment centres underneath Toronto’s financial core (www.toronto.ca/path). There are shops and services above ground but in December when the maximum daytime temperature is 1C it’s a lot more comfortable to go below, where there is no compromise on the volume of shops or the temperature of your fingers and toes!
During weekdays the underground shops thrive - beware though, on weekends it is virtually closed as with no business workers there is no passing trade. We found it better to stay above ground on Saturday and Sunday.
For non-resident Canadians shopping in Canada: keep your receipts. You can claim back the Goods and Services Tax on eligible purchases. Before leaving the airport ask a Canadian Border Official to validate all receipts for goods before GST over CAD$50 and once home access the claim form at: www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/gst-tps/rbts/vstrs/menu-eng.html to get your tax back.
Of course we had to visit Tiffany’s & Co. (20 minutes north of our hotel at Bloor St West; 800-843-3269), however I was only able to gaze longingly (as hubby-to-be breathed a sigh of relief). Instead, we found Jordan Stuart Jewellers on Queen Street West (416-869-0303) who had ‘the one.’ My ring was chosen, ordered and collected before the end of our five day trip: a first class service throughout.
Where to stay
We stayed at the fabulous 4* Delta Chelsea Hotel.
From the stunning entrance foyer to the good sized double room and luxurious bedding we were very happy with our room only accommodation.
However we struggled with jetlag and found ourselves at 6am in the adults-only heated indoor pool and whirlpool. On the first two days we would then head out to the nearest coffee house around 7am and wonder why nothing else was open! By day three we were in the pool by 7am doing lazy laps. Business men and women reminded us we were on holiday as they frequented the fully equipped Deck 27 Health Club. Obviously not all 1,590 rooms were filled with holidaymakers.
We also had breakfast at the hotel’s Bb33 Bistro and Brasserie with its skyline view over the city. Breakfast is 6.30am - 11am every day offering a buffet with something for everyone: CAD$10-30 each.
What to do
Toronto is likened to a mini New York, and we agree but only if we can add that we feel it is truly better!
There were no queues of noisy traffic; everywhere we went people were friendly and happy to recommend things to us and best of all, the green way of living is literally refreshing. The air, streets, parks and buildings are all so clean, you can really see the difference they are making. For example there are specific three-container bins all over the city with separate compartments for recyclable beverage containers, paper recyclables and residue garbage.
We were glad we had decided to travel by foot in Toronto wherever possible to reduce our own carbon footprint in such a green city.
If you are visiting Ontario we highly recommend you take a one hour drive over to Niagara Falls, where you can experience the Journey Behind the Falls all year round, or the Maid of the Mist boat tour from April to October (www.niagarafallstourism.com).
On the way, our tour bus (www.grayline-niagarafalls.com) stopped at one of the many vineyards in the Niagara Peninsular: Pillitteri Estates (www.pillitteri.com). We did a spot of wine tasting and were introduced to Canadian ice wine – a delectable sweet wine to tantalise your taste buds. A gift boxed 200ml bottle of sweet white wine cost approx CAD$25.
Continuing the green theme, we discovered that all drivers are required to turn off their engines when stopping, even temporarily at traffic lights, to reduce carbon emissions, and we couldn’t help thinking how un-city like that is, and we secretly hope it will catch on elsewhere in the world.
On reaching the falls its natural beauty and sheer power was a phenomenal sight to behold. The new environmentalist inside of us was excited to hear that the force of the water is harnessed as hydropower to produce renewable electricity.
A 150ft elevator ride took us down to a short tunnel going directly behind the Horseshoe Falls. This is not a dry tour, we were behind the falls and could touch, hear and feel them pounding above us. During the winter the falls mist can freeze in spectacular ice formations on trees and buildings – a beautiful sight to behold. Winter entry rates are reduced to CAD$9.75 for adults when the Lower Observation deck must be closed for safety, but this does not detract from the breathtaking 30-45 minute experience (800-563-2557).
Canadians love their sports and the Air Canada Center is home to: Toronto Raptors basketball; Maple Leafs ice hockey; Toronto Marlies baseball and the Toronto Football Club (www.theaircanadacentre.com).
While here we really wanted to see a live match and were able to purchase CAD$15 ice hockey tickets from the box office (or call Ticketmaster 416-870-8000) to a college game: St John’s Maple Leafs.
Returning that evening we walked the 1.7km but you can take the tube nearest the Delta Chelsea, Union Station, to the Air Canada Center for CAD$3 each (adult single). The atmosphere in the packed stadium was electric. It was fun and lively throughout and the evening flew by. Before we knew it everyone was filtering out into the underground metro and pedestrian tunnels. Luckily at no point did it feel a threatening or dangerous place to be.
To us, Toronto is like no other city; it really is leading the way in these green times of energy efficiency and conservation and will always remain close to our hearts.